Going Rogue for $96

collection letter
Receiving this collection letter was the final straw for Alice Pattinson.


         There was no room in today’s story about rogue parking tickets to tell the tale of Alice Pattinson.  Hers is not just about a ticket she never knew had been written but about how hard it was to dismiss it,  even though its lack of merit was obvious.

         Pattinson, who lives in Croydon, received a letter from the Philadelphia Parking Authority dated Feb. 17th, 2010, slapping her with a $20 late fee for a ticket she allegedly received on Jan. 21st at 7:24 a.m.  near 4200 Chestnut St.

          Because she never paid the original fine, she now owed $71.

         Pattison, who works overnight at the Walmart in Fairless Hills,  says she was nowhere near West Philly at that date and time. She called the PPA and spoke with a clerk, who told Pattinson that the ticket was written on a white Chrysler. Pattinson owns a maroon Dodge.

         It became clear to both of them that the ticket was an error, and that whomever wrote it probably entered a wrong letter or digit on the license plate number. Hence, the ticket went to Pattinson, and not to whomever the white Chrysler belonged to.

         Pattinson was told to write a letter explaining situation, attach a copy of her vehicle registration and a photo of the license plate attached to her maroon vehicle, and then mail it off to the Parking Violations Branch for review. That’s what she did.

         But the dunning letters kept coming – month after month, ratcheting up late fees and threatening further action if she didn’t pony up. Each time, Pattinson called the PPA and was told to ignore the letters and that her case would be reviewed within 30 days.

         Instead, the PPA letters were replaced by ones from a collection agency. By then, Alice wasn’t worried about a boot or tow, as she had junked her car, whose transmission was shot. But she didn’t want her credit wrecked by a nonpayment of monies she knew she didn’t owe anyone, for any reason.

         Last week, angry by a second, more threatening letter from the collection agency, she called me for help. I referred her case to the very competent Sue Cornell, who works in customer service at the PPA.

         Cornell’s magic wand cleared the case in 24 hours.

         She confirmed what Pattinson already knew: that Pattinson had done everything right in addressing the matter and that the Parking Bureau of Administrative Administration had never, ever reviewed it. For six months, they kicked the can down the road, until a collection agency took over.

         Cornell even concluded her email to Pattinson with an apology.

         “I'm really sorry this has been such a hassle for you,” she wrote. “Thanks so much for your patience!”

         Thank you, Sue Cornell.  And shame on everyone else at the PPA or BAA who didn't care about fixing an expensive mistake that should've been righted in five minutes.